LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Health advocates are pushing what is billed as a simple way to have more CPR-trained lifesavers in Michigan: requiring the instruction in school.
The legislation easily cleared the Senate in the spring and is pending in the House, which supporters hope will vote this month before members break again to focus on the November election.
The bill would require that schools provide instruction in CPR and the use of defibrillators at least one time between grades 7 and 12. The requirement would begin in the 2017-18 school year.
The instruction could be for hands-only CPR, a simpler type of training that does not require certification or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It can be taught in as few as 30 minutes, and the instructor does not need to be a certified CPR trainer.
Sarah Poole, a government relations director with the American Heart Association, said many Michigan high schools already offer CPR training.
“This really would help fill in the gaps and ensure that all students get it before they graduate, which would add about 100,000 CPR-trained individuals into our communities in Michigan every year,” she said.
To meet the requirement, schools could incorporate the training into an existing health class that students must take to graduate.
The American Heart Association has lobbied for the legislation across the U.S. Thirty-four states now have similar laws, all but one of which have been passed since 2009.
“It’s a no-brainer,” said Rep. Tom Hooker, a Byron Center Republican and sponsor of the House version of the legislation. Decades ago, he did CPR on his 6-year-old son after fearing he had stopped breathing due to what likely was a seizure caused by a fever.
While there appears to be no organized opposition to the bill — school groups are neutral or have taken no position — a couple of Republicans on the 17-member House Education Committee voted against the measure or abstained, citing concerns about another mandate imposed on schools.
“Most police and fire agencies in almost every community will voluntarily come into the schools to teach it for them,” Hooker said. “If a person is not breathing, just call 911 and begin heart compressions.”
Among those backing the legislation are Tyler Menhart and Noah Weeda, seniors at Northview High School in Plainfield Township north of Grand Rapids. The soccer players were doing training sprints on their spring break in 2015 when Weeda collapsed.
“I turn around and he’s lying face down,” Menhart said. He ran across the field, grabbed his cellphone and called 911. The dispatcher instructed him how to perform CPR until emergency responders arrived.
Menhart, 18, had received CPR training in Boy Scouts, around fifth or sixth grade.
“As soon as they told me CPR, I had a pretty good idea of what to do and everything,” he said.
About 357,000 Americans have sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year, with only 8 percent surviving. The American Heart Association estimates that performing CPR until medics arrive can triple victims’ survival rates, but too often bystanders do not know CPR and can only call for help.
Advocates also say that because four in five cardiac arrests happen at home, students with CPR training are most likely to save a family member or friend’s life.
Weeda, who was in a coma in the hospital, said he sustained short-term memory loss because an arrhythmia led to his brain not having enough oxygen. The 17-year-old initially was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which thickens heart muscle and can interfere with pumping blood. But he said doctors recently did more testing and no longer know precisely what may have caused his heart to beat abnormally fast.
Without Menhart’s initial CPR, he said, “I really don’t think I would have even made it.”